Our overseas holidays might be on pause, but our passion for travel remains unabated. Not since Prohibition in 1920s America has there been such desire for a product you can’t buy. But if there’s one tour operator that can navigate the choppy waters of a pandemic, it’s Turquoise Holidays.
Recently named Best Tour Operator in Condé Nast Traveller’s Readers’ Choice Awards for the fourth year in a row, Turquoise Holidays was founded in 2002, at a time when bird flu was at its apex and the second Gulf War was on the horizon. It wasn’t the most auspicious start, but it allowed the brand to develop a steely fortitude, something that has helped it adopt a safe but proactive course of action today.
‘I have learnt two important lessons from Covid-19,’ says managing director, James Bell. ‘The first is that flexibility and honesty will go a long way to solving most problems. The second is that if you look after your clients and employees in a crisis, no problem is insurmountable. While some of our competitors have pulled back on their marketing, we wanted to go on being a strong presence so we’ve continued with the traditional methods like newspaper adverts, social media campaigns and magazine spreads. We also knew it was imperative to make our clients feel valued.’
Making clients feel appreciated is no simple task at the best of times. ‘Our customer service has to reflect our sympathy for anyone with disrupted holiday plans, particularly our wedding clients,’ says James. ‘We always make a point of getting in touch with our customers to discuss their options, rather than waiting for them to contact us. We’ve introduced refundable deposits, greater flexibility on itineraries and sourced insurance policies offering specific Covid-19 protection – even for clients who wanted to travel against FCO advice. As they say, “you can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf”.’
The business model has had to be adapted, which James describes as ‘shortening our sail and relooking at our course’. This has meant making changes to the company’s working practices, destinations and product. Extra support has been given to staff, introducing ‘self-care days’ so they can rest and recharge their batteries.
The brand’s outlook remains buoyant. ‘We’re certain of our future because the security, protection and advice a tour operator provides will become even more important to people looking to book their holidays,’ James says. ‘Our personable service and innovative approach to choosing the best islands and hotels based on their awareness for the surrounding environment will also certainly help.’
Turquoise Holidays also knows the thirst for travel hasn’t gone away. ‘Turquoise Holidays will be moving into 2021 and beyond with confidence and optimism,’ says James. ‘I really believe that once we start travelling again we will be better at it. We’ll slow down, savour every moment and show greater respect for those around us. The world is still a wonderful place and it would be a shame if we weren’t allowed to visit it.’